COVID-19: How to be a great video conferencing host (part one)
Coronavirus has changed our working lives and like everyone I have been thrown into the world of video conferencing.
Over the last few months I have successfully hosted dozens of remote meetings and recently, more and more people have been asking for tips on how to run them smoothly.
So, here are my notes on how to be a great host – since they are likely to be a fixture of working life for some time to come.
Please let me know if you agree or disagree and share your own top tips!
1. Get it right from the start
It’s bad when no one turns up to your video conference. Even worse when just a few people turn up to witness your failed video conference! So, help people turn up on time. Send the invitation out ahead of time along with the agenda and highlight the link to your video conference. Use whichever tool matches how your participants operate – whether that’s email, WhatsApp, or text message.
Then, send them the link again on the morning of your meeting – it will be easier for your guests to find the link when scrolling through their messages. Ask anyone who is presenting slides at the meeting to log on perhaps 10 minutes early so you can help fix any technical issues and ask them for a copy as a backup.
2. Who’s invited?
There are the nightmare stories of having your meeting hijacked by unpleasant and uninvited people. Shockingly, colleagues ran a paediatric oncology teaching session for trainee doctors only for the meeting to be crashed by someone sharing indecent images.
The safest way to stop unwelcome guests at your meeting is to ensure you have your meetings set up with passwords and only share the invite with those people who are welcome. Know who should be turning up or with larger meetings have a guest list by your side.
Too often people’s video conferencing account names are nicknames or default names of their mobile phone. Let everyone know they must have their account name matching your guest list or they will not be let in. If a guest’s name is still unrecognisable when they enter the waiting room – you can send them a private chat message to confirm their identity and help them rename their account so that when they enter other guests know who they are too.
3. House rules?
Would you let anyone share your home on Airbnb without first letting them know your house rules? Same goes for remote meetings. You will learn to adapt them to your different sets of participants. Here are some good examples:
- Let people know that you will set them to mute on entry to the meeting and they should stay on mute unless they wish to contribute. People shuffling, dogs barking, or off meeting conversations will disrupt things.
- Let your guests know how they should ask questions or join in the conversation – raise a virtual hand, ask a question on chat, private message you or someone else on chat or just join in the conversation.
4. Start early
The meeting may be scheduled for 10am but that’s not when you should turn up! For larger meetings I start prepping about 20 minutes before the scheduled start. I have a quick check list that I run through:
- Is my host name correct?
- Will all entrants be muted on entry?
- Will I receive alerts when guests arrive in the “waiting room”?
- Am I recording the meeting?
- Have I activated the chat message box?
- Are the slides needed for the meeting ready to go and on my computer’s desktop?
- Are my screen sharing preferences correct?
You’re then set up to welcome any early bird attendees or to help your presenters get comfortable.
I’ll be sharing part two of my ‘how to be a good video conferencing host’ shortly!
Dr Barry Lambert is Medstars co-founder, as well as a consultant anaesthetist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. View his profile here.